Posted April 11, 2010

The MR BURNS Syndrome: How to Avoid Back Injuries

I had the opportunity to teach a four-day Post-Rehab workshop to some very special trainers this week, and always enjoy having the opportunity to allow others to grow and expand their thought processes about how the body works and responds to exercise. On Saturday we were discussing the spine, posture and core training for spinal dysfunctions, and I mentioned a phrase I coined a few years ago: the MR BURNS syndrome. Imagine the billionaire degenerate from the Simpsons, and think of how he stands, holds his hands, etc. And think if you know of someone who spends hours at a computer and begins to push their head forward, round their shoulders, lose the ability to straighten their arms, and get a mighty hump in their backs. This is the MR BURNS syndrome, whihc stands for (in my head) Muscular Rigidity from Bipedal Underdevelopment and Reduced Neuromuscular Stimulation (check the initials. Pretty lame, I know but it works).

Looking at the mechanics of the spine, any time the body is forced to hold a flexion posture for extended periods (like sitting in an office chair), it causes a reduction in muscle tone of the postural extensors and reliance on the ligament and disc strength to maintain posture. Additionally, as the spine flexes forward, it creates a back-pressure on the discs that they are not used to, specifically in L3-4 and L4-5, where about 90% of the pressure is commonly on the anterior discs during normal activities, where they are at their strongest. Maintaining these postures commonly leads to core muscle deconditioning and de-stabilizes the low back ligaments and disc integrity, commonly causing injury to the supporting structures and discs.
So for those who have low back pain (like I do today after spending the past 4 days standing upright all the time and not moving around as much as I usually would, as well as from running a few times for the first time in a few months), changing positions becomes even more important. The more you can move, the better chance you will have of reducing the single-position strain on the back and to help increase the strength of the back muscles to prevent this from happening in the future.
Just like mom said when you were younger: “Sit up straight and eat your vegetables.” Good advice then, and still good advice now.